Is the communist dictatorship of North Korea merely rattling its sabers, hoping to get concessions in the form of food and energy from the United States, as it did during the "Capitulation Clinton" administration? Probably.
Should we deliver to them what they want in return for another empty promise that they will do what we want? Absolutely not.
Should we ignore the threat and treat North Korea as a starving remnant of a recently bygone era? Only at our own peril.
If North Korea develops nuclear weapons and the capacity to deliver them to targets of the regime's choosing, they will present a viable and frightening threat to much of the world.
President Bush says he believes the matter can be handled diplomatically. Maybe. But a strong missile defense system would help us credibly counter the North Korea threat-- to the point where they would no longer be a threat at all.
That is why it is essential that we move ahead, with the same speed once on display during the heyday of the moon-landing program, to make sure a workable missile defense system is deployed as soon as possible.
I'm Cal Thomas in Washington.